We Moved to Another State for a “Fresh Start.” Here’s What That Means to Me

We Moved to Another State for a “Fresh Start.” Here’s What That Means to Me

Shifrah Combiths


With five children, Shifrah is learning a thing or two about how to keep a fairly organized and pretty clean house with a grateful heart in a way that leaves plenty of time for the people who matter most. Shifrah grew up in San Francisco, but has come to appreciate smaller town life in Tallahassee, Florida, which she now calls home. She’s been writing professionally for twenty years and she loves lifestyle photography, memory keeping, gardening, reading, and going to the beach with her husband and children.

Here’s How to Pack Your Shoes for a Move Without Crushing or Scuffing Them

Here’s How to Pack Your Shoes for a Move Without Crushing or Scuffing Them

When I moved to my current home, I took a giant cardboard box and threw all my shoes into it. I figured they’re shoes and are designed to take a bit of a beating, so they should be fine. Cue me opening up that box after I moved to find smashed sneakers, a broken sandal strap, and scratches on my purple suede heels.

In my defense, I’ve never particularly cared about shoes. This is a relatively new personality quirk for me. So I didn’t really think about how to move them, and how it should probably differ from my previous “stuff in a box and go” method.

If you want to avoid the same issues I had when you’re packing your shoes to move, here’s what you should do.

Use the original boxes if you can.

If you still have the original boxes for your shoes, great! Pack each pair in its designated box. But if you don’t (and let’s be real, not many of us do) you’ve got a few options.

“An alternative to [shoeboxes] is using a door-hanging shoe rack,” says Beatrice de Jong, Consumer Trends Expert at Opendoor. “You can usually fold this in half and lay it flat or put it in a large box, keeping your shoes in pairs and organized.”

Failing that, you may have to use a big box like I did. But there are some precautions you can take.

Don’t want smashed sneakers? You don’t need to have them.

“Use rolled-up newspaper to place inside shoes in order to help keep the shape of the shoes,” says Common’s Chief Move-In Officer, Jodi Farbish.

If you don’t have any newspaper or don’t want to crumple it up, try stuffing your shoes with T-shirts, socks, extra pillowcases, or even plastic bags. Anything soft you have laying around could work. You can also pack your shoes in canvas bags after stuffing them to preserve the material.

Use the right packing method.

When you’re using the big box method, you’ll want to be sure to stack the shoes properly in order to avoid any mishaps.

“Stack your shoes in order of bulkiness and how much you value them,” de Jong says. “For example, your rain, snow, and hiking boots can go at the bottom, followed by sneakers, and then I usually like to put sandals at the top. If you have several pairs of heels, packing those in a hard-top suitcase, laying each shoe on its side and going about it like a game of tetris works best. You can layer in towels or sweatshirts to ensure the heels don’t scuff each other.”

And remember the weight of the box, as well — and that you or a mover will have to actually pick it up and carry it. “Distribute the weight of your shoes in each box you’re packing in to ensure one side isn’t heavier than the other,” Farbish says.

Jennifer Billock


Jennifer Billock is an award-winning writer, bestselling author, and editor. She is currently dreaming of an around-the-world trip with her Boston terrier.

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Dreaming of Moving to France? Here’s What to Know If You’re American

Dreaming of Moving to France? Here’s What to Know If You’re American

Billed as one of the most romantic countries in the world, it’s no wonder France beckons travelers. Not only does it contain Paris and the acclaimed Eiffel Tower, but the country is also known for its lingering meals that almost always include bread, wine, and cheese. Whether you feel called to the more metropolitan areas or have always dreamed of living in a chateau in the countryside, non-citizens can make France their home. Here’s all you need to know to move to France as an American. 

Can U.S. citizens move to France?

If you want to dive deeper into the French lifestyle as a U.S. citizen, you can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. However, if you wish for a more extended or permanent stay, you’ll need to secure a visa de long séjour — even the name has a romantic flair — to stay beyond the 90-day limit. You’ll also need a valid passport, proof of medical coverage, and a letter stating that you have no criminal record. Also, France requires that you move to the country with the intent to stay. So, if you visit and wish to live in France, you’ll have to return to the U.S. and reenter to apply for the proper visa within a week of your arrival. 

How much money do you need to immigrate to France?

As with moving to many other countries, you need to prove that you can support yourself while in France. Bank statements and letters from your bank regarding pending transfers to a French bank account will suffice, or — if the situation requires — a letter from a family member or friends guaranteeing your funds is acceptable. It’s also necessary to set up a French bank account as you will need one to secure utilities, such as electricity and Wi-Fi. 

Although France tends to be slightly more expensive than the U.S., a couple can live a modest lifestyle for just under $2,500 per month. However, living in Paris will cost significantly more in rent, which is typical for urban areas. In addition, if you reside in France for more than 183 days, you will be required to pay tax, which can be up to 45 percent of your income, depending on how much you make. Filing late can cost up to 10 percent extra, so be sure to get your paperwork in on time. 

Can I move to France without a job?

If you’re studying abroad, students can show a letter of admission from their school along with academic credentials. Additionally, if you wish to work as an au pair providing babysitting and housekeeping in exchange for room and board, you’ll have to present a work contract from your employer. 

Otherwise, foreigners can find a job while they are in France, although you’ll need to update your resume and go through interview processes just like in the United States. Currently, France needs skilled laborers, which is good news if you are a carpenter, electrician, or have other special training. If you don’t have a job, seek to retire in France, or have a position that allows you to work from anywhere in the world, you will need to prove that you have sufficient funds or outside support to enable you to remain in the country.

How Many Moving Boxes Do I Need?

How Many Moving Boxes Do I Need?

I remember the first time I ever hired professional movers. I was psyched to be able to sit back and let them do all the hard work after I’d spent weeks packing. But being me, I procrastinated and hadn’t packed a single thing by the time I looked for a company to hire. So it caught me completely off-guard when they wanted to know how many moving boxes I had. I hadn’t even packed yet — how was I supposed to know these things?!

The amount of moving boxes you’ll have factors heavily into any quote a moving company will give you. So in order to save you from my procrastination-induced panic, here’s a guide to knowing what you’ll need, with advice from the professionals.

What types of boxes will you use?

The types of boxes you’re going to need really depends on what you already have to use and what kind of stuff you need to move. Before you do anything, declutter and get rid of everything that’s not moving with you. Then, “look around your home to see what you already have to pack in, like suitcases, canvas bags, and more,” says Jodi Farbish, Common’s Chief Move-In Officer. “This will help save the numbers of boxes you need.”

For breakables and things that could be water damaged, consumer trends expert at Opendoor Beatrice de Jong suggests using plastic bins instead of boxes. “I find that plastic bins get the most reuse, especially if you have kids that are constantly growing out of clothes, or bringing home keepsake crafts from school you want to save,” she says.

You can also get special boxes for your television, your clothes, and your picture frames, which will overall reduce the amount of boxes you need, because they have specialty uses. Try not to get any boxes from the moving company. They can bring them on moving day, but it’ll be more expensive and you’ll be left scrambling at the last minute to pack things that you really should already have boxed up.

Is there a secret formula movers use to determine the amount of boxes?

As you probably expected, there’s not.

“Unfortunately, there is no magic formula, and sometimes movers need to actually see your home to get a proper idea,” de Jong says. Most reputable moving companies will want to do a walkthrough of your property first, so they may be able to estimate based on their own experience. But overall, there’s no real way to know for sure.

So how do you know how many boxes to use?

See if you can make an estimate by looking around your house, and then get more than what you think you need. It’s always better to have too many and not use some than to have too little and be scrambling at the last minute. If you really need a guide, de Jong suggests budgeting for 10 boxes per room, at least to start. “Even if they aren’t all used in one room, they will get used eventually,” she says.

Jennifer Billock


Jennifer Billock is an award-winning writer, bestselling author, and editor. She is currently dreaming of an around-the-world trip with her Boston terrier.

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6 Things Nobody Tells You About Leaving the City for the Mountains

6 Things Nobody Tells You About Leaving the City for the Mountains

After watching a dozen episodes of “Doomsday Preppers” on a lark with my husband, it occurred to me, a longtime city dweller, that I had no “escape plan.” 

“What if the power grid inexplicably melts, or an asteroid crashes into the New York Stock Exchange?” I wondered out loud over a large order of nachos. My husband rolled his eyes. But as the weeks passed, my whimsical musings became more compelling.

“Should we buy a getaway home?” I pushed. The idea had also crossed my husband’s mind, and he’d gone one step further — he’d secured a potential location.

The Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, located just one-and-a-half-hours west of our tiny NYC abode, seemed ideal. It was a straight shot on route 80, taxes were low, and a large, relatively magnificent home could be purchased to the tune of $100,000.

We took a weekend jaunt out and toured some houses, quickly settling on one that spoke to us. Over the coming months and years, we made it our sanctuary. On weekends and holidays, we ventured there to nest. We welcomed a son six months after our closing date.

I grew up in a small mid-coastal Maine town, and the vibe wasn’t terribly unfamiliar from my childhood digs. Still, if you didn’t come from that kind of environment, there are some notable differences. 

People moving into wooded areas over time have displaced the bear population. You see, bears have learned that sticking around results in major Dumpster-diving scores. Hot and gross tip: they especially love baby diapers, which are, to them, a delicacy — like caviar. While bears don’t typically attack humans, a momma bear with her cub might. 

Feeding bears, either on purpose or accidentally, is bad news, and often results in bears behaving like bears and then being shot and killed. New woodland homeowners can prevent this by making sure all food and garbage is kept out of bear range, securing trash containers with bungee cords, and dousing garbage with ammonia. 

Finding Friends Isn’t Easy

We had been homeowners in the Poconos for a good five or so years before we really made any friends. It wasn’t that we weren’t trying, it was that a home in the mountains doesn’t exactly invite excitement. Our neighbors were nice, but not exactly people who we shared common ground with. So, those seeking community in the boonies may have to make a concerted effort. Once we joined a local CSA, we developed some wonderful friendships of like-minded folks and are going strong with barbecues, garden parties, and all the things you’d hope to have anywhere you call home. I also joined some Facebook community groups focusing on my interests, which helped expand my circle.

This has certainly changed some since the pandemic started, but even now, everything costs less than it does in the city. Homes, groceries, restaurants, activities, babysitters — it’s all cheaper. It’s not unusual to find free or inexpensive things to do, and, of course, there are loads of great thrift stores and yard sales. An added bonus: when people have easier access to plentiful necessities, life is less of a rat race. As a result, the atmosphere feels easier, and not as stressful. 

The Food Is…Not as Good as City Eats

Ok, so trying to get excellent bagels or pizza in the Poconos isn’t exactly a simple task. Finding truly spectacular restaurants has been a treasure hunt, though we have found a few special places, like Sango Kura, a noodle house and izakaya pub, and Pennsylvania’s only sake brewery in Delaware Water Gap. That being said, we load up on city favorites (Chocolate Babka from Kossar’s Bialys, anyone?) to cart out to the mountains and freeze, hoard, gift, or share with friends. As time goes on, new restaurants have been planting themselves in the community and our options have been expanding.

City Acquaintances Become Pals

It’s interesting — people who I might not have hung out with much in the city have purchased real estate and moved to the area, and then, voila — we become friends due to proximity. It’s happened a few times. Maybe I didn’t know them until we coincidentally met in the community, maybe I heard they’d moved here from a friend, but half my BFFs are now people who relocated to the mountains who I had lived alongside in the city for decades, but never really spoke to. 

Both Spots Rock in Their Own Ways

This is not a, “X is better than Y” piece, nor is it a New York City hit piece. I moved to NYC in 2001 and have a love-hate relationship that almost anyone who spends a long time there may eventually develop. The city will always have a special place in my heart, and I love being able to toggle between the environments within the time span of a short car ride. Both areas have their pros and cons, as any locations do. But if you are looking for a nice place to run away to after a long bunch of tough years and high rent in the city, Pennsylvania has much to offer. And if you make your way an hour and a half west of the city and like good food, live comedy, hiking, writing and #momlife, well… look me up.